056: Vann Fussell: Compost Colorado
Tune in to find out how a Denver, Colorado entrepreneur is putting some zing into residential and commercial composting pick-up!
Vann Fussell is the founder and chief officer of Compost Colorado, a unique compost service based in Denver. Compost Colorado swaps members' full compost buckets each week with new, clean buckets filled with eco-friendly samples and products. Compost Colorado is like compost collection service meets sustainable subscription box service.
When Vann moved from North Carolina to Colorado a few years ago, he was amazed that composting was not more popular in Colorado.
"Composting is chapter one of environmentalism," says Vann. "It's low hanging fruit and makes a really big impact."
What is composting?
Composting is a basic part of the life cycle. Things have a natural life cycle. They grow from the earth, with sun, water and oxygen. There are things in life that help them break down and regenerate into more life. So, composting is an important part of a beautiful life cycle.
When we bring organic materials to landfills, they don't break down and they actually generate greenhouse gases that worsen climate change. By not composting, "we are fighting against ourselves," says Vann.
Instead, by simply taking the organic materials to a different site and minimally processing it, it turns into really healthy soil that can solve other problems.
Denver Recycles does offer curbside composting as part of the residential pick-up services. Because this service is limited to residential dwellings of seven units or less, this means that many Denver residents and all Denver businesses are excluded from this option.
"We pick up where the city leaves off," says Vann. Compost Colorado picks up from larger multi-family dwellings, apartments, businesses and events in Metro Denver.
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Residential Compost Pick-Up with a Twist
Most apartment buildings contract with a company to pick up a dumpster for trash. Due to space limitations, most building don't even offer recycling.
Compost Colorado offers an air-tight bucket for apartment dwellers. Each week, Compost Colorado replaces the bucket with a clean bucket. By using the durable buckets, no plastic bags are used.
Many people do not have composting or recycling in their apartment buildings due to lack of space for another dumpster. (I'm one of them so take my recycling and composting to the city central drop-off site.) This approach doesn't require another dumpster, so can work where the central dumpster approach has failed.
Compost Colorado focuses on making compost more appealing and more inclusive, and part of that is delivering a sustainable zing to members. The clean bucket comes with eco-friendly free samples or products purchased from the exclusive members-only CoCo Store. Local progressive products and companies include Boulder Granola, Namaste, The Real Dill pickles, tea from Rose House Gifts and others.
Commercial Compost Pick-Up
Compost Colorado also serves businesses. In each case, they develop a customized solution to make composting as seamless as possible. For office spaces, they may need just one pick-up per week. For coffee shops the primary focus is on the back -of-house (kitchen) because that's where most of the compostable materials are generated. By picking up twice per week, it saves employees the hassle of taking heavy bags of plastic out to the dumpster.
For places that decide to have front-of-house (customer area) composting, it's imperative to have a custom-made infographic that shows clearly what goes where. Most places that add composting then have a "tri-bin" system. Without attention to customer education and proper signage, it's likely to lead to contamination... the wrong things in the wrong bins.
Vann described the setup at Illegal Pete's, a Colorado-based casual dining chain, that goes above and beyond the norm. Illegal Pete's front-of-house setup has only recycling and composting, and no landfill bin. So, everything in the front-of-house can either be recycled or composted. This two-bin system with clear infographics keeps contamination to a minimum.
Composting: A Climate Action We Can All Take
When organic materials get trapped among plastic and styrofoam in the landfill, it breaks down anaerobically very slowly. It can take hundreds of years for even a watermelon rind to decompose in a landfill. That process releases methane, a gas that's 22 times more potent in terms of heat capacity than carbon dioxide for the first 15 years or so after it's been released into the atmosphere.
An estimated 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. come from landfills. If we could divert that 50% of waste from landfill to composting, that would decrease our greenhouse gas emissions. That would also save space in landfills for those things that aren't compostable.
Climate change is the biggest issue of our times. Instead of giving up meat or stopping driving, composting is easy.
"Composting is the easiest and most effective way" to reduce greenhouse gases. Compost Colorado is taking steps to make it even easier by giving members a clean bin with perks from local companies.
Once you get the composting bug...
I didn't grow up composting but now...
"I have such a love affair with rotting food now, it just breaks my heart to do anything other than composting something like a banana peel," Joan Gregerson.
Denver Compost Challenge
Compost Colorado is happy to be working with the Denver Compost Challenge. The challenge runs from April through November 2019 and is focused on educating and challenging neighborhoods to increase the amount of composting in any form.
The Denver Compost Challenge was initiated as part of the Green Team Accelerator Lab, with representatives from Congress Park Neighbors Green Team, Eco-Cycle, Denver Recycles, Denver Sustainable Neighborhoods, Compost Colorado and others.
Check out the helpful resources for the Denver Compost Challenge:
- Denver Compost Challenge on Denver Recycles website
- Denver Compost Challenge Toolkit on Denver Sustainable Neighborhoods website
Pricing and Service Area
Pricing for residential members range from $17 and up. The current service area is includes areas of Denver and Lakewood, and is project to expand. Visit the Compost Colorado for current membership options and service area.
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